James Neal has proven to be a solid offensive contributor throughout his five NHL seasons, holding his own alongside some of his much more heralded Pittsburgh teammates.
But after being handed his third career suspension Monday for his knee to the head of Brad Marchand, many can’t help but view Neal as a dirty player.
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma was candid when speaking about his winger’s most recent ban, saying that something needs to be done to change the way Neal operates on the ice.
“There needs to be some education there,” Bylsma said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “There needs to be some learning in how he needs to play the game and how he can play the game.
“There definitely has to be a learning aspect to the situation that James was in. He’s a 40-goal scorer and has to be able to play that way without crossing that line.”
Neal was suspended five games by the NHL for his hit on Marchand during Saturday’s 3-2 loss in Boston, which he later admitted was “not the smartest decision.” He agreed with his head coach, saying that the reputation as someone who plays outside the rules is not one he desires.
“Am I sorry for it?” Neal said “Yeah. I hurt my team. I hurt myself. It’s not something I want to be talked about for.”
Neal has played in just 16 games this season due to injury, totaling 10 goals and 10 assists. He will be eligible to return when Pittsburgh hosts the Wild next Thursday, Dec. 19.